Coming out of a difficult year and into an uncertain one means the upcoming 2021 federal budget is going to be a mix of pandemic relief and potential recovery stimulus. How the Government of Canada balances these two priorities will provide insight into how our country’s leaders anticipate we will handle the global pandemic.
The budget will prioritize getting Canadians through the pandemic, including providing people with the supports they need. Prime Minister Trudeau has already announced an extension to the number of weeks that people can claim benefits under several income support programs, including the Canada Recovery Benefit and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has submitted our priorities for the 2021 federal budget, including:
VIA High Frequency Rail
The VIA High Frequency Rail (HFR) plan is ready and waiting for approval. It is part of the mandate letter provided to the new Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra.
VIA’s proposal for dedicated tracks for high frequency trains between Toronto – Peterborough – Ottawa – Montréal – Québec City will assure the corporation can maximize ridership and revenue and improve their on-time performance to over 95%. Dedicated tracks for passenger service will reduce trip times while also increasing VIA’s profitability, effectively eliminating the need for a Government subsidy within a few years.
A dedicated passenger corridor will create significant economic development along the route, including an estimated 336,000 person years of employment. The hybrid electric-diesel trains running on this route will dramatically reduce carbon emissions by 12.5 million tons of CO2, the equivalent of a car-pool reduction of 2.8 million vehicles.
In addition to the benefits of more efficient inter-city travel, VIA’s proposal will increase access to affordable housing in the new rail corridor and provide new residents with a transit option for commuting.
Dedicated tracks solve VIA’s congestion problems, increase its efficiency and profitability, create economic development while remaining environmentally friendly, and will give commuters better access to communities not traditionally served by transit. It is important to note that track improvements for passenger service will offer significant benefits to current and future freight users.
Expansion of Broadband Internet Access
The need for rapid expansion of access to high-speed internet has never been greater. Broadband access is a necessity for business, both as a location for offices and facilities as well as access and integration of their workforce.
While we’ve made progress over the last decade, 2020 highlighted some major gaps in access to high-speed internet. Though largely a rural issue, it’s likely not as rural as many would believe with large service gaps just on the edge of the city. For 2021, we need to make sure that all Ontarians have the ability to work and learn from home.
Targeted Investment and Relief COVID-19 has required business in some sectors to close or drastically change their service model while others have continued with few changes. Those hardest hit include accommodation, food service, arts, entertainment, recreation, and retail.
We’ve had a year to study the impacts of the pandemic. We know how who and how businesses are being impacted. We need our government to target relief efforts to the specific areas that need it most.
Greater Access to Capital for Small Businesses
Small businesses are investing not only in what they need to thrive through this crisis, but also in the future sustainability of their business well beyond 2021. Businesses that are investing in themselves are businesses that will continue employing people in our community and hopefully expand and hire more.
Additionally, many businesses have used government and other loan programs to assist them through the pandemic. As they borrow more and deal with reduced income, it makes it even more difficult to borrow further funds without assistance.
The 2021 federal budget will be one of the most challenging in recent times. It should provide some key insights into what our government expects this year to bring.
Home Tax Credit
Aging at home extends and improves the quality of life for seniors by providing
independence and helps them avoid accidents and illness. It also lessens the strain on our healthcare system.
Taking care of loved ones who are aging at home can be expensive for family. Families in Ontario provide 20 million hours of care every year.
Family-funded home care is now more important than ever. Home Care Ontario and Family-Funded Home Care Services are asking the Government of Ontario to implement a special Home Care Tax Credit to help families support their loved ones at home.
Please follow the link and take a couple minutes to send a letter to your MPP to get this tax credit included in the provincial budget: